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Principal's Corner Past Issues

Principal's Corner Fall 2015

Early Start to the New School Year

In spite of an early beginning in the month of August, the 2015-2016 school year started smoothly, thanks in large part to the good efforts of teachers, office staff, and PVS families. As we enter the ninth year of PVS, school enrollment is strong, and new families continue to be welcomed and supported by returning families. As in previous years, considerable faculty professional development occurred between mid June and late August. Many teachers attended Rudolf Steiner College in Sacramento, CA, and all of the new teachers took part in a three day, dedicated inservice prior to the return of all other staff on August 20th. All PVS staff took part in a one day workshop at school which launched our working relationship with an organization called Safe and Civil Schools. They are providing us with a collection of practical materials designed to help PVS staff improve safety and civility across all school settings.  Safe and Civil Schools provides resources, and practices that align closely with the mission of PVS, and the core tenets of Waldorf education, which include:

                                All students must be treated with dignity and respect

                                Students should be taught the skills and behaviors necessary for success

                                Motivation and responsibility should be encouraged through positive interactions and building relationships with students

                                Student misbehavior represents a teaching opportunity

As part of our work with Safe and Civil Schools, all staff are collaborating around procedures on three levels, including, schoolwide, classroom, and individual (students). We are focusing on positive behavior interventions and supports(PBIS). Our August inservice day included training in CHAMPS, which is a series of materials designed to help the classroom teacher develop an effective classroom management plan that is proactive, positive, and instructional.  I will share updates on our work around PBIS in the course of the year.

PVS as a Learning Community

At PVS, the highest priority is student learning, and healthy social –emotional development. In order for students to learn, they need adult role models who are lifelong, continuous learners, and committed to learning, both individually, and collectively, as a school community.  The PVS faculty, in collaboration with the parent association (PVPA), and Board of Directors, are planning parent education evenings throughout the year, dedicated to important themes in our school community. On October 8, Dr. Steven Sagarin, Faculty Chair, co-founder, and teacher at the Berkshire Waldorf High School, MA., and author of the book, The History of Waldorf Education in the USA: Past, Present, and Future, will be our guest presenter on the topic of Our Children, Our Technology, and Our Future; What characterizes technology as a human creation, and what ethical and educational demands does it require?  The following day, Dr. Sagarin will be the keynote speaker at the third annual conference of Oregon, public, charter, Waldorf inspired schools in Eugene. The Oregon network of five public, charter schools continues to provide ongoing professional development opportunities in Waldorf education, and teachers from PVS in particular have assumed leading roles at the annual conference in Eugene.  At the November 5 PVPA meeting, Lucia Mello, PVS Kindergarten Teacher, will deliver a presentation on The Foundations of Waldorf Education. On January 14 I will speak about The Developmental Realities of Middle School Students: Implications for Teachers and Parents.

PVS is a genuine learning organization in other ways, as well. As a school, we continue to develop our relationships with Graduate Schools of Education at local universities, including Concordia, University of Portland, and Lewis & Clark. This fall we have eight interns from University of Portland doing their first “field experience” hours at PVS. In the winter, we are getting one or two student teachers from Concordia. These organizational relationships are a ‘win-win’ proposition for both PVS and the universities. Above all, they provide more support for our students across all grades, and our supervising and mentoring teachers improve their professional skill sets also.  Two of our new teachers this year performed well at PVS as student teachers last year.

First Year of Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, SBAC (External Tests)

Very recently statewide news reported the results by schools, on the annual state tests, this year called the “Smarter Balanced” tests, which are tied closely to thecommon core state standards. PVS students in grades 3-8 took tests in English-Language Arts, and Math, and students in grades 5 & 8 also took a test in Science.  Soon, the Portland Public School District will mail home the test results for individual students. It should be pointed out that the Oregon Department of Education (ODE), and PPS, adopted the SBAC tests admittedly to raise the achievement bar for students in public schools, and they expected a significant majority of students would not be proficient in the first year. In fact students in PPS overall did better than predicted, although there is still a long way to go to ensure all students are meeting benchmarks. As far as PVS students are concerned, once again, our middle grades (6-7-8) outperformed their counterparts in neighborhood PPS schools in Reading and Language Arts. This trend has been a constant over the past four years, whereby our students continue to show gains through each successive grade, while in most public schools, students’ reading scores level off, or even drop in the middle grades. More important than test scores however, the PVS, Waldorf inspired approach to teaching basic literacy skills, produces students who enjoy reading, and appreciate the wonder of stories, including both fiction and non-fiction.

In math last spring, PVS students in seventh grade outperformed their counterparts in PPS schools, while in sixth and eighth grades they scored slightly lower. Math continues to be a curriculum area of focus across all grades, and part of our support system this year includes newly adopted math textbooks, and consumable student workbooks. Our adoptions were the result of an extensive review and discussion process last year, and the new materials have just been, or are still being, distributed to the students. We adopted math materials for grades K-5 as well for grades 6-8.

Some other noteworthy results for PVS students on the SBAC Tests include the performance of sub-groups compared to district wide results. For example, PVS students on Free and Reduced Lunch scored higher on both the ELA and Math tests than their counterparts in PPS schools. The same holds true for PVS students who receive Special Education services. They scored higher as a group on both ELA and Math tests than their counterparts in PPS schools. Our Hispanic and Multi-Racial student groups also did well compared to district wide. With regard to gender differences at PVS, the boys and girls were similar in math, and the girls as a group did generally better in ELA and Science.

Once again it is important to understand these test results in context, and recognize they are a single snapshot in time for our students, and they need to be considered in light of many other factors that go into student assessment, academic performance, and learning. They are one of the barometers by which PPS evaluates the performance of PVS as a charter school organization, and our annual participation in the tests is an explicit component of our charter with the district.  When parents of students in grades 3-8 receive the “Individual Student Report” (ISR) for the SBAC Tests,  please consider them alongside the internal assessment reports you get from PVS teachers in November, March, and June, and the combination of these internal and external assessments should provide valuable information.

Fall Work Party October 17 and Bon Vivants Fundraiser for PVS October 18

On Saturday October 17 from 9-4 there will be a large contingent of volunteers from all across the USA working on behalf of PVS. Last year this group performed a number of school wide improvements, from painting, to landscaping, window cleaning, and bench building. This year I hope more PVS parents can join the work party, and then take part in the Sunday fundraiser in Portland, sponsored by Bon Vivants. Last year this one day event produced a $12,000 donation to PVS, and we will do our best to match that again this year.  Please contact Rebeckah Castillo at school if you want any more details about the work party, or Sunday event.

 

Finally, thank you to all the parent and grandparent volunteers. We appreciate your support on behalf of the students and teachers. This year, one of our goals is to increase the number of parents who are willing to volunteer with any class, or grade level, because some classes have more challenges around securing needed volunteers. Please contact the main office, and let Samantha Pike or Lydia Gonsalves know if you are able to be a “utility volunteer”, and are willing to help out in any class, or grade level. Thank you to everyone in our community who contributed to a positive start to the school year.
Sincerely,

Paul Berg

 

Dates to Keep in Mind:

Oct. 8 Dr. Steven Sagarin Presentation,    Media, Technology,and Waldorf Education      7 pm at PVS

Oct. 9 Inservice Day (No School for Students)

Oct. 17  PVS Work Party at school  9-4 (Bon Vivants)

Oct. 18  Bon Vivants Fundraiser in Portland  1-6

Oct. 30  Teacher Planning Day for Conferences (No School for Students)

Nov. 11 Veterans Day    National Holiday (Wednesday)

Nov. 12-13   Parent –Teacher Conferences

Nov.25  School ends at 12 noon

Nov. 26-27  Thanksgiving Holiday (No School)

 

Principal's Corner May 2015

Event Highlights

These past few weeks there were many noteworthy events involving PVS students. Ms. Kendrick’s and Mr. Kolstad’s third grade classes were residents at Geer Crest Farm. Fifth graders took part in the Olympiad at Oxbow Park on the Sandy River. They were led by their teachers, Mrs. Lambertus, Mr. Reis, and Ms. Kennedy. The fourth grade classes of Ms. Hinrichs and Ms. Vitti had an enjoyable stay at Camp Collins for Potlatch last week. At all of these events our students were transported and supported by a large number of parent volunteers as well as PVS teachers.

The annual May Day Celebration that included students in Grades K-2, and 8th G. held at Kenton Park, was a testimony to reverence and our school as a community. In addition to the students being well prepared by their teachers, live music was provided at the park by a group consisting of PVS teachers, parents, and students. The weather was bright and comfortable, and the audience was respectful, supportive, and appreciative.  A grandparent attending for the first time commented it was “the best May Day event he had experienced,” and he had seen quite a few. The Middle School Choir performed a Spring Concert, and we are thankful for the guidance and commitment of Ms. Goff for this after school activity this year.

The 7th-8th Graders took part in an annual Track and Field Meet with private Waldorf Schools in Hillsboro. The performances by PVS students in many events, both individuals and teams were outstanding, and the level of support and encouragement shown by students, parents, and teachers alike stood out to me on the day.  Sixth graders who took a field trip to Bonneville Dam came back to school with a new appreciation for hydroelectric power, and the virtues of clean, sustainable sources of energy. In April the 8th Grade Project Evening took on a new format at PVS as a result of our first, dual tracked 8th Grade. Students in both classes presented their projects, and shared their community service experiences at one event. Audience members were invited to rotate through three different classrooms to listen to 4-5 presentations per session which were listed in the program.  As in past years, the range of topics was widespread, but a common denominator among them was PVS students showing care and concern for people and the environment.  I listened to presentations on hunger in Oregon, homelessness, the importance of fresh food, the ecology of a nearby slough, and living options for elderly citizens, in particular, their priorities and preferences.  Project Evening provided tangible evidence of a PVS education that prioritizes teaching and learning through the head, the heart, and the hands. The third annual PVS Alumni Evening was held in February, and was led by a group of current 9th Graders sharing their transition experiences to high school. They offered personal testimonies along with sound advice to current PVS students that will serve them well as they progress through higher grades. Our alumni at this event also provide tangible evidence of how successful PVS students are when they transition to high school. They are the best testimony to the value of a PVS education.

PVS Students for Sustainability

Thanks to a group of conscientious Upper School students who meet weekly with their advisor, Mr. Harvey, PVS continues to make progress as a Certified Oregon Green School. Chief among their accomplishments this year has been the construction of two rain barrels which will soon be installed to collect rain water that will be used for our plant beds on the SW side of the Upper School.

Recently they conducted a school wide inventory of some of our natural resource consumption habits to raise awareness of everyday materials we use.

Some of their findings;

  • The 5th-8th Grade students go through about 2,000 seven inch wood pencils a year. That is 1,250 feet of wood pencils that if stacked together would be as tall as the Empire State Building in NY.
  • The entire school uses 700 reams of paper a year. Each ream weighs 6 pounds. That means we consume over 4,000 pounds of paper in one year, which equals the weight of an average male Walrus (2+ tons)
  • We go through over 300 boxes of tissues in one year, which translates to 30,000 tissues. The students determined that if one person used all these tissues, they would have to blow their nose over 80 times a day, seven days a week, all year.

We are grateful for the work of the Sustainability Club the past two years, and hope their momentum will continue as a student activity in support of our Oregon Green School status.

Special Education at PVS in 2015-2016           Additional Staffing Planned

The provision of special education services at PVS is the responsibility of our chartering district (PPS), and the district Personnel Office assigns district teachers to PVS. As a result of steady lobbying on the part of all charter schools in PPS, the formula for allocating special education teachers has been changed, and starting next year, PVS will have 1.5 FTE (full time equivalent), instead of our current 1.0. This means we will have the services of an additional special education teacher for half time. What the ‘half time’ will translate to in terms of days and hours is yet to be determined, but the net result is we will have additional support next year for our students who qualify for special education services.

After Care and Before Care Services: Plans for Next Year

We recently met with the Director of Vermont Hills Family Life Center (VHFLC), about plans for next year, and are pleased to report that there is every intention of providing supervised care, both before, and after school next year. We are still working out the details, but the goal is to have early morning supervision provided by VHFLC from 7 am, until the doors to the classrooms open at 8:15 am.

PVS as a Learning Organization and Parent Education

Save the date, Thursday October 8th for an Evening with Stephen Keith Sagarin, PhD.  He has been invited to be the keynote speaker at the 3rd Annual Oregon Conference of Public Waldorf Inspired Schools on October 9th in Eugene. We are in the process of making arrangements for him to do a presentation at PVS on Thursday night Oct. 8th. Dr. Sagarin is the author of The Story of Waldorf Education in the United States: Past, Present, and Future. He is being asked to deliver a presentation on media and technology in Waldorf Education. He is the Faculty Chair and Co-Founder of the Great Barrington Waldorf High School in western Massachusetts, where he teaches history and life science. More details about this event next October will be forthcoming. This event will also be an opportunity to invite visitors to PVS, including staff and parents from private Waldorf schools in the metro area, as well as officials from PPS.

 

Search and Hiring Process for 2015-2016

The search and hiring process for the 2015-2016 school year is in full progress, and our goal is to have all of our openings filled as soon as possible, hopefully in time for the new hires to attend summer training at Rudolf Steiner College (RSC) in California. The Search Committee includes teachers, administrative staff, and parents, who ultimately make hiring recommendations to the Principal.

PVS advertizes its openings on national as well as local educational sites, in addition to the school’s website. At this time we have openings for full time teachers in grades 5, 6, and 8, as well as an opening for a part time teacher of Eurythmy. 

Candidates for full time, main class teacher positions need to have a current Oregon Teachers License, and possess “highly qualified teacher” (HQT) status according to the federal guidelines under No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Preferred qualifications include prior experience teaching the grade level, and practice in Waldorf education. When main class teachers are hired they are also reminded of the PVS looping policy, which expects teachers to follow a four year cycle with their classes, in grades 1-4 and 5-8. We are always striving to improve how we meet the transitional needs of incoming teachers. Besides supporting training at RSC, new teachers join returning teachers for a week of planning and preparation prior to the first day of school in August. This summer, for the first time we will provide an intensive three day training at PVS, exclusively for new teachers, delivered by four of the most experienced current teachers. This training at school will reinforce core tents of Waldorf education, and familiarize new faculty with ritualistic PVS practices, and an understanding of the rhythm of our school year. Through a combination of support levels, including training at RSC, PVS based training, and ongoing mentoring throughout the school year, we expect to increase the likelihood that newly hired teachers at PVS will have successful transitions. We recognize the challenges around teacher salaries in the open market, and will continue to provide employee benefits that include employer paid medical and dental insurance, a public retirement plan (PERS), life and disability insurance, and ongoing professional development  support. We also stress that PVS offers teachers an opportunity to join a unique public school community that has highly vested and supportive parents, and offers distinct approaches to teaching and learning. We will also make concerted efforts for newly hired teachers to meet PVS families, and students, prior to the start of school.

 

There are many upcoming events in the final days of school, including class plays, Medieval Games, 8th Grade Class Trip, Promotion Evening, and a Community Celebration Event to name just a few. I hope many parents and relatives will gather to celebrate the eighth year of PVS. This is a free event on June 5th. Please check the Weekly Digest for timely reminders about school wide events and parent volunteer opportunities. We are extremely grateful to all of our parent volunteers who support school activities in so many ways, from transportation, to chaperoning, and being physically present to assist teachers and students.  Thank you very much.  

Sincerely,  

Paul Berg      

Principal's Corner Fall 2014

The eighth year of Portland Village School got off to a very good start, thanks in large part to the collective efforts of teachers, students, parents, and guardians. The vast majority of students arrived on time each day ready to start classes, and punctuality is a critical aspect of having a successful day at school. New students have been welcomed by returning students and I observed a number of deliberate efforts by returning PVS students to  include newcomers during snack time, lunch time, and recess.  The 2014-15 school year is also special because it represents the first year of having dual sections in every grade, Kindergarten through eighth. At the traditional Rose Ceremony on the first day of school it was a pleasure to have two eighth grade classes escorting two first grade classes throughout the assembly.

Summer Professional Development and  PVS as a Learning Community

Nearly all of the teachers at PVS took part in summer professional development opportunities. Many attended training at the Rudolf Steiner College in California. Some traveled to other parts of the country to pursue Waldorf training; Mindy Lee Hill went to Colorado, and Jessi Herbert went to Antioch College in New Hampshire, where she completed her multi-year program to earn formal Waldorf Certification. In addition to supporting Waldorf based professional development, an equally high priority is supporting teachers to renew their licensure requirements, and a number of them successfully completed coursework and examinations to do so in June-August.

An ongoing feature of PVS as a continuous learning community, and place of professional growth for teachers and support staff alike, is our relationship with schools of education at local universities, including our support of field experiences for aspiring teachers, and student teaching opportunities. We have well established relationships with both the University of Portland, and Concordia University, and are mentoring 11 field experience students, and student teachers this Fall. We have also started to connect with the School of Education at Lewis and Clark College, whose director plans to bring a cohort of student-teaching candidates to visit PVS in the Fall, with the goal of having some Spring placements.  Teachers at PVS are committed to mentoring and supporting student teachers, and providing authentic learning and development opportunities. These relationships are two way streets, and also benefit our teachers, in terms of reflecting on, and discussing  their work in the classroom.

Student Achievement in 2013-14

All PVS families this past year should have received the end of year PVS Progress Reports from each teacher, along with written narratives. These reports were mailed out in late June. Teachers spend considerable time and effort to make the internal assessment reports meaningful to parents, and these documents form the basis of the discussions that are held at Parent- Teacher Conferences in November and March each year. Parents are encouraged to keep these documents together, and use them to measure progress over time, as well as areas of strength, and skills needing improvement.  The faculty at PVS has been discussing the practice of writing narratives at the end of the school year, particularly the timing of such information (at the end of the year). This year, a few teachers will make up a pilot group who plan to write the narrative portion of student reports during the first two trimesters (November and March),  and then send the final PVS Progress Report in June. The purpose of this project is to give parents (and students) more information about what a student knows and is able to do,  areas to improve, and recommendations for how to improve,  when there is still time in the school year to apply the information and make progress. During the course of this year there will be more information about this pilot project generally, and more specifically to the class parents of teachers taking part in the project.

In addition to the internal assessments, PVS students in grades 3-8 take part annually in the external state tests, which are requirement for our public charter with PPS. This past year the results showed significant gains for our students in Math, and they continued to perform well in Reading/Language Arts, and Science. The State Department of Education rates schools on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the highest rating, and 1 the lowest.  PVS had an overall rating of ‘4’ in 2013-14, which is the same rating as 2012-13. It is worth noting however that in the additional categories of ‘Academic Growth’, our rating was Level  5 in 2013-14 compared to Level  4 in 2012-13, and in ‘Subgroup Growth’, PVS  earned a Level  4 rating in 2013-14, compared to Level 3 in 2012-13. In general what this data indicates is that the improvements made by PVS students this past year on the state tests included most of our students across the board, and not just one particular group. We continue to strive to ensure that all PVS students experience academic  progress every year. 2013-14 marks the end of the state tests known as OAKS (Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills), and 2014-15 brings the first year of tests known as the ‘Smarter, Balanced, Consortium’, which students in many different states will take. The Smarter-Balanced tests are designed around the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) which have been adopted by over 40 states, including Oregon.  Students will be tested in Reading, Writing, Listening, Research, and Thinking skills in April-May 2015. There will be more information about the PVS Curriculum, Waldorf Education, Common Core State Standards, and the new external assessments, at the Curriculum Evenings, October 23 and January 22.

The Language Program at PVS

When PVS started eight years ago, Spanish was offered as an additional language of study. Three years ago Chinese was introduced, and over the past three years different configurations were tried to have students experience both languages. For example, there were block rotations where students did Spanish for a few weeks, then Chinese, then Spanish again, and so on. That arrangement was challenging for students as well as teachers. Last year we devoted one half of the year to each language, and that also proved difficult. This year students will continue to have a language class twice a week, the same as previous years. However, Grades 1-4 will have Chinese all year, and Grades 5-8 will have Spanish all year.  For those students in each division who also want to study theother language, we are offering both Spanish and Chinese as an After School Activity once a week. Thus, we are still trying to make it possible for students to study two languages this year, while we devote  time and thought  to the structure of our  language program  going forward.    How many languages should be offered, or required, how often, what grades, and the desired learning outcomes, are all considerations we will take into account.  We have started to research  how language classes are offered at other public, Waldorf inspired schools, as well as private Waldorf schools. We will also solicit input from parents and students about their priorities for the language program. Now that PVS is fully grown, and become a dual tracked K-8 school, we need to be vigilant in reviewing how we carve up the days and weeks for student learning. Assuming  we will not lengthen the school day,  a decision  to dedicate more time to one subject area  will mean reducing time in another.  Articulating a clear purpose, and designing a language program to achieve it, are our overarching goals for the future.

Special Education Services at PVS

All special education services at PVS are provided by personnel assigned by Portland Public Schools, they are not PVS employees. This year we have one full time special education teacher (Courtney Wilson), who is at school every day. In addition, we have three  part time personnel, including a speech pathologist (Craig Dermer), and school psychologist (David Dugo), each, one day a week, and an occupational therapist assigned to PVS  for eight hours for the year. Presently, about 10% of PVS students  receive  special education services, either in the form of ‘push in’ or ‘pull out’, depending on the location of service (main classroom or learning center classroom). When students need to be evaluated  for special education services, they are placed in a line, and typically the evaluation requires time with the special education teacher, speech pathologist, and educational psychologist. In addition to administering tests, the same personnel  are providing services to students according to their Individual Education Plans (IEPs) which are also reviewed, and amended  periodically, according to student needs.  

Saturday Work Parties in 2014-15   October 18 & December 6

This year we plan to have Saturday Work Parties on four occasions, and hope that we can garner volunteer support by announcing them well in advance, and highlighting a priority activity.  At every work party there will always be desks and chairs to repair, along with other routine maintenance tasks that we do every year. There will be two work parties before Winter Break, and two after. The first will take place on Saturday October 18, at which time we will paint the classroom doors in the Lower School building.  The second work party will happen on Saturday December 6.  Work parties take place between 9am-12 noon, and lunch is provided afterwards. Please consider volunteering at one work party this year.

 

The faculty and staff have worked hard to prepare for a successful school year, and look forward to the continued support of parents and family members.  Our top priorities are the heads, hearts, and hands of our 420+ students, and their success in school is much more likely when adults share core values and work together on their behalf.

Sincerely,

Paul Berg, Principal

Principal's Corner Summer 2014

While the 2013-2014 school year has officially concluded, a good deal of work is already underway at PVS to get ready for 2014-2015. Reflecting back on one year ago at this same juncture, there were still hiring decisions pending, planning permission being sought for a major room renovation, and a good deal of unfinished business. Thanks to the good work of many people, we are much further along with our strategic developments.

Faculty Professional Development

The vast majority of PVS teachers are taking part in Waldorf training programs in various locations. Fourteen teachers, including the two new main class teachers, are attending training at Rudolf Steiner College, in Sacramento CA.  In addition, six teachers are doing Waldorf training at other locations, including New Hampshire, Colorado, and Oregon.  Five teachers are also involved in coursework to renew their teaching licenses, and most are doing work in the area of Equity and Diversity Studies. These continuing education experiences align closely to our strategic development priorities of underwriting teachers’ ongoing Waldorf Education training, as well as supporting them to renew their state licensure.

Site Developments

Considerable transitions have already occurred enabling the main class teachers to occupy their new classrooms for next year. Grades K-4 will be in the Lower School building, while grades 5-8 will be on the main floor of the Upper School. The basement classrooms, and open space will once again be used for Music, Handwork Folk Dance, and Movement/Games classes. Last summer priority for painting and carpet cleaning was given to the Upper School, and this summer, the focus is going toward the Lower School. The newest classroom is already taking shape, as the contractor completed his work this week, and the next steps are painting and carpeting. In fact, plans call for the entire Lower School hallway to be cleaned up and painted. 

Preliminary OAKS Results

PVS students in grades 3-8 are required by the district to take the annual state tests in Reading/Language Arts, and Math, and in addition, students in 5thand 8th Grades take a test in Science.  Our students continued to do well in Reading/Language Arts, and Science, and this year we are pleased to report that in grades 4-8 the results in math showed significant improvements from last year.  In each of the grades the percentage of students who met or exceeded state benchmarks showed increases ranging from 11% to 45%.  There was a concerted effort this year to support our 8thgraders in math. Last year, as 7th graders, 33% met or exceeded benchmarks in math. This year, 78% of them did so.  Overall, improvements in math achievement also occurred in all of the sub-group categories, including ethnic minorities, students with disabilities, and economically disadvantaged. Teachers across all grades deserve a lot of credit for such gains in student achievement in math. This year marks the final year of OAKS tests (Oregon Assessment of Knowledge & Skills), and next year will begin the external assessments around the Common Core State Standards, called The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.  The faculty will share more information about Common Core Standards at our annual Curriculum Evenings in October and January. (See the previous Principal’s Corner Spring 2014 for more information on the Common Core State Standards and the Waldorf Inspired Curriculum)

We realize there are many barometers of student achievement and progress in school, and external tests are only one such indicator. Nonetheless, we are proud of the progress our students made this year, and continue to remain vigilant in our drive to ensure the gains are experienced by all PVS students, particularly those in traditionally underserved groups. The faculty and staff at PVS remain highly committed to applying lenses of racial equity and diversity to all of our strategic developments. We are also committed to a curriculum, and school, that promotes the development of our students’ hands and hearts, as well as their heads. 

There were many highlights during the past school year, including considerable work accomplished with the help of highly capable parent volunteers.  The Parent Handbook was revised and upgraded. The Weekly News combined timely news with pictures of students, staff, and parents alike, engaged in a wide range of activities.  The Woven Newsletter and the Yearbook were also volunteer led publications of the highest quality that were enjoyed by the entire PVS community.

Sincere thanks are also due to all the parent volunteers who participated in supporting classroom activities, regular excursions such as park walks and day field trips, as well as the overnight class trips to chaperone such events as the 3rd Grade Farm trip, 4th Grade Potlatch, 5th Grade Olympiad, 6th Grade Opal Creek, 7th Grade Marine Science Center, and 8th Grade End of Year Trip to the Oregon Coast.  Another PVS tradition that recently occurred was the 8th Grade Promotion Evening, followed by the Promotion Reception hosted by the 7th Grade parents and students.  The seasonal festivals, including the Harvest Fest, Lantern Walk, Spiral Walk, Lunar New Year, and May Day, along with the annual Craft Fair, all benefitted from hard working, positive volunteers, and widespread community support. This past year there was an increased effort to collaboratively plan and publicize school events, and update the calendar, between the PVS Events Committee, the PVPA, and the school administration.  The PVPA hosted morning coffee socials on the first Friday of each month, and the administration sponsored Saturday work parties the first Saturday of each month from January through June.  There were school wide Parent Information Evenings focusing on a range of topics, including PVS Curriculum, OAKS Tests,  School Finances,  Classroom Spaces,  and The Black Portlanders’ Project.  In June, PVS was notified by the Fire Up Your Feet Organization, that our Bike and Walk to School efforts in May resulted in a first place finish, and an award of $2,000, which will be dedicated to our Movement and Games Classes, for equipment purchases this summer.  Thanks to our dedicated parent volunteers who spearheaded this campaign at school, and led by example. 

The end of June also marks the conclusion of the fiscal year for PVS, and our Business Manager, Kary Aloveah, as well as the Board Treasurer, Travis Neumeyer, have done an excellent job of preparing documents for our annual external audit, which has already started, and will conclude in July.  In addition to our annual audit, PVS also sends quarterly financial reports to Portland Public Schools.  The PVS Finance Committee, which holds monthly, public meetings, also benefits from a core of long serving parent volunteers, who keep track of a lot of details regarding school revenues, expenditures, and annual budgets. As far as fundraising was concerned, this past year resulted in less revenue than planned, but the Fall and Spring events still managed to promote a strong sense of community and commitment going forward. The strategic growth of the school’s enrollment will peak in the near future with the realization of two sections of each grade (K-8) in 2014-2015. This means that fundraising from external sources will become increasingly important. The PVS Fundraising Committee welcomes interested volunteers to take part in their monthly meetings, and strategic plans in the year ahead.  Watch the PVS Website and Weekly Digest for opportunities to get involved in PVS fundraising efforts.

The seventh year of PVS brought about many positive developments, and nearly all were accomplished through the combined efforts of school personnel and parent volunteers. To apply the ideas of Rudolf Steiner regarding seven year cycles in human development to a developing organization, PVS has established a positive foundation upon which all later structures can be built. The school is clearly establishing its own identity, or mission, as a result of its potential coming to terms with its environment, bringing about transformational change. It is well positioned to begin its second seven year cycle.

The school will be open on a part time basis during the month of July. If you need something please call ahead or email to check with either Ms. Cloud (rcloud@portlandvillageschool.org), or Ms. Castillo (rcastillo@portlandvillageschool.org), to make sure one of them is available. The school will resume being open on a daily basis (Monday-Friday) in August.

Have a safe and enjoyable summer.

Sincerely,

Paul Berg, Principal

Principal's Corner Spring 2014

Recent Events

Since school resumed after the Winter Break in January, there have been many noteworthy school events, and significant strategic developments. In January, we held our second Curriculum Evening, which included an open Q & A segment about OAKS testing and Waldorf education. As part of the Portland Village School Board’s strategic development goal of implementing a Levels of Engagement Model, parents were invited to evening forums in February on such matters as facility decisions and room use, and PVS Finances. Also in February, the PVS faculty, along with board members, and the co-chairs of the PVPA, all took part in a two day in-service training focusing on race in education. Engaging in this work with a collection of PVS constituent groups was a positive experience for everyone, and a model we hope to build on. In March, we offered a new schedule for Parent-Teacher Conferences, designed to cater to a wide range of busy, working families, and were pleased with the high rate of parent participation. Also in March we held our second annual Alumni Evening, presented by current 9th graders in metro area high schools. PVS also held the third annual 8th Grade Project Evening. All PVS 8th Graders are required to complete an annual research project, on a topic of personal interest, as well as engage in dedicated hours of a related community service project. Their oral presentations on the night were very well done, and reflected positively on the entire class and school. It was good to see parents of younger PVS students at the 8th Grade presentations. Other established traditions such as class plays, field trips, and assemblies have been going well, along with new events this year, such as the Middle School Electives program, and the Sustainability Club, which is beginning to lead PVS through the stages of becoming a certified Oregon Green School. In May, students in grades 3-8 will take the required state tests, called OAKS (Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills), and students new to this experience will have opportunities to practice and become familiar with the tools and process.

Waldorf Education and the Common Core State Standards

During the two curriculum evenings this year, parents learned about the ongoing efforts of the faculty to align and synthesize two essential components of our school’s curriculum, Waldorf education and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). In making any comparison between them it is important to note the fundamental differences in values and goals between these two educational approaches. The CCSS are precisely defined knowledge, skills, or understandings that are classified by subject area and grade levels.  They started from the end point of compulsory education (12th Grade Graduation), and back mapped what students should know or be able to do each successive year in school, Kindergarten, through high school. Waldorf education diverges radically from the CCSS view of education in three significant areas. First, although Waldorf education includes the mastery of Common Core academic skills and knowledge needed for career or college success, this set of cognitive academic attainments is part of much more comprehensive educational goal that explicitly includes, and fosters the emotional, physical, and social development of each student, or the head, heart, and hands approach. Waldorf education insists that adequate time must be allocated for a range of activities that allow the growing child to explore multiple aspects of the human condition. Activities that foster character development, healthy physical growth, social consciousness, relationships, imagination and creativity, environmental awareness, and the capacity to make informed decisions and to act on them responsibly.

This breadth of purpose of Waldorf education leads to a second difference with CCSS, with regard to when and how a desired final outcome should occur. Waldorf education believes learning is developed in stages. Students must be given ample time to encounter the world through play and socialization initially, and then experience a spiraling curriculum through the grades, including the main lessons, which are thematic integrated blocks teaching multiple standards in combination. With regard to time in education, Waldorf and CCSS may differ in precisely when a subject or learning activity is introduced, and how much time is allocated for student learning activities, however there is considerable alignment between Waldorf and CCSS as far as grade level expectations. It is also true that in some instances, concepts or subjects are introduced later in Waldorf education than in CCSS. As the PVS faculty constructs our schoolwide curriculum map, we are indicating where such time differences exist between Waldorf and CCSS, and will make this information clear to our families at future curriculum nights and parent class meetings. The Waldorf educator asserts, when instructional time is spent on activities that are developmentally appropriate, and learner compatible, then mastery is more likely to occur, along with student empowerment and enjoyment. Take the example of reading and language arts. The Waldorf approach emphasizes longer pre-reading strategies, more story telling, and form drawing, thus, reading and writing later than CCSS expects. Accordingly, it has been the case that PVS students’ performance in the early grades (3rd & 4th) on the external state assessments in reading and language arts has not been as strong as their counterparts in neighborhood public schools. However, the unequivocal trend over the past three years, is that our students’ reading and language arts achievement in grades 5-8, is stronger than the PPS average, and equally important, most PVS students truly enjoy engaging in reading and writing activities. 

Finally, a third key difference between Waldorf education and CCSS relates to the questions of educational purposes, practices, results, and accountability. The implication of CCSS is that the standards should be the same according to grade level for all students, and their performance should be measured annually and summatively through external assessments.  A phrase commonly heard around annual external state assessments is high stakes testing, as there is considerable publicity around how students perform overall, and subsequently, how schools are rated. Waldorf education agrees with the principle of accountability for student growth, including academically, but also believes that progress is just as important in the areas of social, emotional, and physical development. In Waldorf education there are guidelines for achievement at each stage of human development, which are less rigid than annual grade level, timed, standard-based outcomes. At PVS, where teachers loop with their students in grades 1-4 and 5-8, teachers are responsible for assessing and articulating student progress over an extended period of time, and they utilize a wide range of internal formative assessments in the process.  They convey such progress during Parent-Teacher Conferences twice a year, and through the PVS Progress Reports three times a year. The charter that PVS has with Portland Public Schools stipulates that we will administer the annual state tests to our students in grades 3-8, and the overall results are just one measure used by the district to assess PVS students alongside their counterparts in neighborhood PPS schools, and other charter schools. As a faculty we understand this expectation and welcome our unique opportunity in public education, to successfully merge Waldorf and CCSS. This opportunity is a central topic of discussion and collaboration when teachers and administrators convene from the other public, charter, Waldorf inspired schools in Oregon, and has been a catalyst for the formation of our five school network.

Staff Hiring and Professional Development

As we begin the final months of the school year, there are active searches underway for three teaching positions, and one assistant position (5th Grade, 6th Grade, Music, and Handwork Assistant). The 5th Grade position is a new one, as this was our last year with only one section of 8th Grade. Next year, we will have two 8th Grade Teachers looping back to 5th Grade. The 6th Grade position became open when Ms. Mohn-Johnsen (5th Grade) left PVS in March for personal reasons, to move back to the Midwest where she had grown up. The PVS faculty of 2013-2014 remains largely intact for next year. The goal is to have the new hires on board in time to attend Waldorf education training at Rudolf Steiner College in California, along with the vast majority of returning PVS teachers. As the search committee reviews paper applications to narrow down the field of finalists to invite for interviews, there are a number of qualifications they look for in the candidates. Nearly all full time public school teachers are required to hold Highly Qualified Teacher status (HQT), which in most cases is earned through college degrees and state licensure. Another route to HQT status is through successfully passing national, subject matter tests. All main class teachers at PVS must have HQT status, and according to our charter with PPS, more than half of our teachers, every year, must hold a current Oregon Teaching License. Other qualifications sought in PVS candidates include experience, or training, in Waldorf education.  Above all, we want candidates who are interested in, and committed to working in a Waldorf inspired, public, charter school. They must be willing to pursue continuous professional development, which in many cases means dedicating time to Waldorf training, as well as coursework to renew state licensure. PVS has a Professional Development Committee which is currently meeting to allocate the funds available for teachers’ continuous learning. The highest priorities of the committee are to support teachers in Waldorf training, and coursework to renew state licensure. Once again, this summer, nearly all PVS teachers will experience targeted Waldorf training in June or July, and some are also taking graduate coursework to renew their licenses.

Volunteer Appreciation

Finally, a special thanks to all the parent volunteers who continue to play a pivotal role in positive school developments. From the Saturday work parties, to the weekly park walks, class rep duties, Weekly News Digest, Woven Newsletter, food for staff meetings, chaperoning field trips, and everything else. We are very grateful for your efforts to support the students and teachers, and our entire school community.

Sincerely,

Paul Berg,
Principal